Saturday, January 13, 2007

Selective Perception, Global Warming, and self delusion

A few weeks ago I was talking with a college student, a daughter of some old friends, who had taken a course from an environmentalist professor who apparently claimed that the world temperature had gone up by seven degrees in the last decade or two--she wasn't sure of the precise numbers. She expressed the view that snowy winters were now a thing of the past, offering the (then current, midwest) warmth as evidence.

Currently, the midwest is caught in a severe ice storm and California, where I live, is unseasonably cold instead of unseasonably warm. I have not, however, heard anyone offering that as evidence that the next ice age is impending, and I doubt that the student has revised her predictions.

Of course, the current weather isn't evidence of global cooling, or at least not significant evidence. Nor was the weather a few weeks ago significant evidence for global warming. But once people believe in global warming, it's easy to take each warm spell as evidence and each cold spell as experimental error.

My point is not that global warming isn't real; so far as I can tell it is. My point is rather that the belief in global warming is not, indeed cannot be, supported by the sort of first hand evidence that most of us have from the weather around us. Last year's U.S. temperatures, according to a news story I saw, were a full two degrees above average, making it by some measure the warmest year recorded. But a difference of two degrees is, for most of us most of the time, simply too small to notice. A seven degree (centigrade or fahrenheit not specified) increase over a decade might be noticeable--but that, of course, is fantasy not fact. Wikipedia gives a figure of .6 degrees centigrade over the course of the 20th century.

In this area as in many others, we are in fact dependent on second hand evidence and our ability to evaluate it. But we like to convince ourselves otherwise.


At 8:47 PM, January 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah it's freaking cold here in NorCal. I've been asking all my friends where this global warming is when I need it.

Texas is getting chilled too.

4-5 years ago the Northeast was getting blasted with record breaking blizzards.

At 3:04 AM, January 20, 2007, Blogger Steve Sailer said...

That reminds me of the notorious Winter of 1976-77, when bridges over the Ohio River were closed due to heavy ice, so truckers simply drove their 18-wheelers over the ice from Kentucky to Ohio. The media was, indeed, then full of deepthink stories about the Coming Ice Age. (And, frankly, mile-deep glaciers covering Chicago sound worse to me than global warming.)

At 10:47 PM, January 25, 2007, Blogger Dean said...

Arnold Kling wrote three weeks ago about "the elites'" strategy for avoiding truth: "to make a large investment in selectively choosing which facts and arguments to emphasize or ignore."

At 10:57 PM, January 26, 2007, Blogger Monkxin said...

Global warming is merely a bifurcation of a much larger and an unfathomably more complex entity called "global climate change." It is only because that basically a human beings' attention span relatively falls short in comparison to time over the last few million years or so, and can be said why the general public doesn't really have a great understanding on the concept of Global Warming. Humans haven't occupied the planet forever you know. Global warming has been going of for hundreds of thousands of years if not much more. What scientists can make out for certain is that human beings Are making an tremendous impact Especially within the last 50 years. CO2 levels are completely out of proportion to their scales composed by recorded measurements gathered on Antarctic ice cores, providing data for the last 650,000 years.
Now, for all those pessimistic skeptics out there, i feel your pain. Nonetheless, the Only real reason why a great many of us have not 'felt' the true effect of 'Global Warming' is because of global Dimming. For you people somewhere getting smothered in snow, Global Dimming is the Real why.

At 4:33 PM, January 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Extraordinary delusions and the madness of crowds helps explain the bout of global warming awareness in 2007. The only other economist I've heard to say something contradictory to the mainstream is Chrysler's chief economist Van Jollisant. Kudos!


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